In 2007, the Rwandan government implemented a new entrepreneurship curriculum in all secondary schools to promote self-reliance and drive economic growth.
“The goal of the policy was to transform an entire generation’s ideas about education and work,” said Catherine Honeyman, visiting scholar at the Duke Center for International Development (DCID) and managing director of Rwanda-based Ishya Consulting.
As it turns out, however, students and policymakers had two very different ideas about entrepreneurship. Students complained that the courses were not a good use of their time. At the end of the curriculum’s first year, less than a third of the planned courses were actually being taught.
Honeyman explored this phenomenon in her latest book, The Orderly Entrepreneur: Youth, Education and Governance in Rwanda, which launched last Wednesday, Sept. 14, at an event hosted by International Comparative Studies and co-sponsored by the Africa Initiative, Duke’s Cultural Anthropology Department and DCID.
While students were more interested in how to obtain capital and pursue their ideas, the government rejected what Honeyman referred to as the “iconic, lemonade-stand view” of entrepreneurship.
“The lemonade stand is not registered, it’s on the street, and its owners do not pay taxes,” Honeyman said. The Rwandan government was more interested in ensuring that new businesses were registered, conforming and law-abiding. In short, orderly.
For five years, Honeyman observed curriculum development processes and Rwandan classrooms and conducted focus groups and interviews with teachers, policymakers and nearly 500 students in grades seven through 12, where the entrepreneurship curriculum was taught.
She found that the curriculum called on teachers to spend more than a third of their time covering rules and regulations rather than helping with business plans, teaching basic accounting and providing advice on how to raise funds.
“The student response was: ‘You can make this course practical by giving us capital,’” Honeyman said. They argued that the money that went to paying teachers should go toward a capital fund to support small businesses.
“According to them, they already knew how to be entrepreneurs,” Honeyman said. “Most of them already had family members who were self-employed or ran some kind of small-scale business.”
What they needed, they claimed, was either more money to start their businesses, or traditional classroom instruction that would allow them to do well on their exams and go on to college.
“Here in Rwanda, you can’t do something with just a little money,” said one Rwandan youth Honeyman interviewed three years after graduation. “Either they tell you it’s dirty, or they say it’s disorderly.”
Giving youth a say in policies that affect them
The book demonstrates that policymakers have to involve young people in creating policies that affect them.
“Here the students were not passive recipients of policy; they also actively shaped its meaning,” Honeyman said. “Education and other policies that affect youth need to be developed with a deep understanding of their experiences and perspectives.”
Francis Lethem, professor emeritus of the practice of public policy and former director of DCID, praised the book as a reminder that “no reform can succeed where there is no demand for it.”
“Surprise, surprise: Most [students] are not interested in a course that will not produce the credentials necessary to obtain a modern sector job,” he said.
Lethem also stated that the government could better promote entrepreneurship by removing administrative and financial obstacles facing small and micro enterprises.
Anne-Maria Makhulu of Duke’s Cultural Anthropology Department asked how the curriculum fit into the current “lyrical view” of Rwanda as one of the world’s burgeoning economies. There is tension, she said, between Rwanda’s neo-liberal policies and interventionism.
“Rwanda is changing all the time, and so much of the country is highly functional and works well,” Honeyman responded. “At the same time, the approach of combining neo-liberal ideas about the entrepreneurial self with high levels of regulation may be [leading to] reduced opportunities for the disadvantaged.”
Making the curriculum work for youth
All in all, Honeyman said, there is still value in incorporating entrepreneurship in the education system in Rwanda and other countries.
“I believe knowing how to be an entrepreneur is helpful, but there are ways to make the current curriculum more effective,” she said. She suggested including more case studies, teaching simplified accounting procedures and legal aspects of running a business, and encouraging savings and loan groups among youth.
Despite its challenges, she said, Rwanda has tremendous potential to become the self-reliant, highly functioning economy that the government is trying to promote.
“There is a lot of hope and a positive picture in a country with so many capable people who want to make progress.”
Dear ICS majors (especially juniors),
If you are interested in applying to the ICS Honor’s Thesis seminar, please do come to an info session to learn about writing a senior thesis in ICS, and about the application process. There will be several seniors who are currently writing theses in attendance as well. We’ll be providing food, so let me know (via e-mail) if you plan to attend. RSVP by Tuesday the 9th to me at
You can read about the ICS Senior Thesis program here on the ICS website, as well as see some of the theses that have been completed over the last few years here: http://internationalcomparative.duke.edu/the_ics_major/distinction
If you are interested in applying to the thesis program and want more details, but can’t attend the info session, please feel free to be in touch with me.
ICS Honor’s Thesis Info Session
Thursday, Feb 11th, 5:30 – 6:30pm
204D East Duke Building
Come join us on Saturday, November 21st, as the ICS Senior Capstone students present their capstone research. Students will convene to explore the topics of Media, Activism, and Identity, Cultures of the Global Economy, Global Blackness, Politics and Culture, Transnational Gender and Sexuality, and Migrations, Ethnicities, Nationalism.
Are you interested in the International Comparative Studies (ICS) major? ICS is hosting a fall welcome back event for majors, faculty, and students interested in the major. Join us for an assortment of crepes served by Parlez-Vous Crepe bus on Friday, October 16th from 3–5 pm behind the East Duke Building.
Kenyan photographer and activist Boniface Mwangi whose photographs defined western news media’s representations of the 2007 Kenyan general elections visited Duke in mid October 2014 to exhibit his photographs, meet with Duke students and faculty and engage in debate about new ethics of humanitarianism and global activism.
Boniface founded Picha Mtaani (http://pichamtaani.org/about/the-project/), a street exhibition that showcased his post-election violence photographs and used images to help Kenyans to reflect on the national tragedy, engage in honest dialogue, seek counseling and plan for next steps and community action. He also runs PAWA254 (www.pawa254.org) a unique social enterprise and collaborative space for creative youth to make a social impact through the visual arts. He is the subject of a documentary film co-produced by International Comparative Studies (ICS) Visiting Assistant Professor, Kathryn Mathers and Cassandra Herrman called FRAMED (framedthefilm.com) which reframes the conversation about change-making in Africa and engages with young Americans about how they can contribute to this process. The conversations between Boniface, a thoughtful and provocative face for a new generation of African activists, and young Americans keen to do good in Africa are not only an essential component of the proposed film, but an important way to nuance some of the taken-for-granted ways in which Duke students engage with the continent.
Duke Related Articles:
Kenyan Photographer Challenges Duke Students on a New Ethics of Activism - Duke Today
Kenyan Photojournalist Challenges Students to Engage at Home - The Chronicle
During my formative years, Kenya was under a one-party state. President Moi ruled the country with an iron fist, and the people who dared question his authority were tortured, jailed and some were killed. We were encouraged to be cowards. There was even a popular expression, “A coward goes home to his mother.” But in this context, being a coward was not an insult. Being a “coward” meant being smart, keeping your head down, and staying safe.
As I grew up l started to question that advice, and sometimes it got me into trouble. Kenya held an election in December 2007, and the election results were violently disputed. What followed that dispute was ugly tribal violence, rape, and the killing of over 1,000 people. It left half a million people as refugees in their own country. I was working as a photographer for one of the largest daily newspapers in Kenya, and my job was to document the violence, through the lens of my camera.
When the violence ended, after two months, with the signing of a peace agreement, I went back to my normal life, but very disturbed. I could not get the horrific images out of my head. As a news photographer, I would again be assigned to cover the same politicians who almost led Kenya into civil war. But most people never discussed the reason why we fought. It wasn’t even discussed by the paper I worked for. For me, continuing to do this — staying silent about the senseless violence along with fellow citizens and leadership — felt hypocritical. The victims were being forgotten, while the politicians formed a government of national looting. I couldn’t stand the hypocrisy any longer, so I quit my job ten months after the violence ended.
I decided to organize my friends to speak out about the state of the nation, corruption, and the displaced Kenyans. For months we met at my house to organize a protest against the government on June 1, 2009, a national holiday. June 1st is the day Kenya celebrates the attainment of self-rule from the British colonisers. The celebration is broadcast live across the country to millions of Kenyans, so I believed it would be the best place to try and get the president’s attention and tell him about the state of the nation. But on June 1st, I found myself alone. My friends didn’t join me. They were afraid of being arrested, embarrassed, or beaten. In the end, after all those months of preparation, they decided to keep their heads down, to be “smart cowards” as we had been taught in our childhood.
Now I had a choice to make: Was I going to sit silently and be “normal” like everyone else, or speak up, in the hope that maybe, just maybe, the president would listen to me. Whatever action I took that day, I knew it would define my life. Finally, I chose to speak. I didn’t know what would happen. Was I afraid? YES. My body was shaking. Yet suddenly, when the president stood up to speak, I found myself standing too, shouting at him, “Remember the forgotten victims of post election violence,” while urging other people to join me. But no one did.
That was the moment I realized nothing could hold me back. In that one action of standing up, I said goodbye to 24 years of my life living as a “ smart coward.” I was arrested, assaulted, and charged with creating disturbance at a presidential event. My family and friends thought I was crazy. I spent that night in jail, sleeping on the cold cement floor, as my whole body ached from the beating, and that got me thinking.
What was making me feel this way? I kept imagining the gruesome images I took. Had my family, friends, and the country seen them? No. The one thousand people killed and over half a million people displaced was just a number to them but to me they were flesh and blood. I saw the killings, the raw violence with my own eyes. This is what sparked my idea to do my first street exhibit. I decided to enlarge the pictures of the victims and acts of violence, and mount them in cities across the country. This was another action that would define the rest of my life and lead me to finding my voice in Kenya. Since then, this activist path has allowed me to work directly with thousands of people, through our street exhibits, political graffiti, protests, and symbolic burials. We even delivered live pigs to Kenya’s parliament as a symbol of our politicians’ greed.
Traditional and social media organically amplified our message and helped us reach millions. The journey that began out of frustration has continued, and we have staged some of the boldest protests in the history of Kenya. Whereas seven years ago, I stood up alone to protest, today I have formed a community that takes to the streets with me, and our actions have given courage to many people to do the same. I am now part of an organized action center, home to creative idealists, rule breakers, and eccentric people like me. We are bold and innovative organizers and mobilizers. It is a place for young people with a passion for making change in our country. In spite of threats on my life, beatings and numerous arrests, I’m not afraid any more. I’m no longer a smart coward.
PAWA254 is Nairobi's unique social enterprise through which innovative professionals from diverse artistic fields exploit their creative genius to foster social change. Among the creatives who collaborate in this dynamic space are photographers, graphic artists, journalists, musicians and poets. Significantly, promising youths are invited both to make their contribution in this informal powerhouse and to receive mentorship from the experts. The end result of the PAWA254 collaborative effort is work that is as inspiring as it is far-reaching, simply work of unparalleled social impact. The PAWA254 hub houses, fosters, and catalyzes creative and community-driven projects for social change across Kenya. It is the first of its kind in Africa.
Picha Mtaani Swahili for "street exhibition," is a youth-led peace initiative that primarily seeks to create space for young people to reconcile and become agents of reconciliation to their respective communities. Through an exhibition set of images taken during Kenya’s 2007/2008 post-election violence, we hope that by staring at the horror we inflicted on each other, we can steer the individual towards personal reflection, towards a willingness to have honest dialogue, and we also hope to create a space for community healing and reconciliation.
“Africa is to be pitied, worshipped or dominated” - Binyavanga Wainaina
What attracts Western activists to “save” Africa when we have our own crises at home? In American media and pop culture, Africans remain objects of our pity or moral outrage or fascination. The images are deeply disturbing, even enthralling, but they aren’t really about Africans; they’re about us. FRAMED takes a provocative look at image making and activism, following an inspiring young Kenyan photojournalist turned activist who shatters the stereotype of the passive aid recipient. As he challenges American students to focus their efforts close to home, FRAMED turns a lens on popular representations of Africa and Africans, as seen through the eyes of Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina and South African born educator Zine Magubane, who ask a chorus of questions about the selling of suffering.
AFRICA IS A COUNTRY: Why We Made A Film About The Images and Myths That Cast A Continent As A Victim
WASHINGTON POST: The West Is Obsessed With 'Saving' Africa. Is That The Problem?
THINK AFRICA PRESS: Why Won't the #WhiteSaviourComplex Go Away?
THE WILD MAGAZINE: 'Framed' Questions Western Attitudes Toward Africa
CLUTCH MAGAZINE: Africa Does Not Need A Savior, America Needs A Savior
GROUND UP, SOUTH AFRICA: Framed: A Film To Explore The West's Fascination With Africa
TINY SPARK: Questioning Our Relationship With Africa
TAKEPART.COM: Op-Ed: Why Won’t White Savior Complex Go Away?
CIHA Blog: In The News: "Saving Africa"
THE CON MAG SOUTH AFRICA: The West and ‘Saving’ Africa
CITY PRESS, South Africa Framed’s crowdfunding success wasn’t the norm for African film makers
WIRIKO, Artes Y Culturas Africanas Framed, otras gafas con las que mirar a África